First of all, Bruno Latour has an awesome voice for lecturing.
The most salient parts of the lecture were two paragraphs towards the end. The first about the still-very-loose definition of globalization and the second about the concept of the State as adapted from John Dewey, pragmatist hero:
"Is it not obvious that those who talk about the great winds of globalization, of opening to the world, of taking risk are blatant hypocrites? Globalizers have a very provincial view of what the whole world is. What they write about is not the global at all, but a lot of globaloney."The basic argument of the lecture is that the "public good" is not a natural, self evident thing and in fact must be continually composed and re-composed by politics. And that those who are in the business of attempting to compose this provisional definition of the public good must be held accountable. This trashes both (Adam) Smithian and Rousseauian definitions of a-priori goodness in favor of a constructivist, provisional public good.
We don't know what the state is, and what sort of protective envelope it should compose. [Yet] the alternative is certainly not between an archaic, national attachment to the land and the great winds of the global current. The state has to be re-discovered.
Calculating, the act of tabulating or assessing something already existing in the world, is offered as the instrument of contemporary politics as matter-of-fact. Since calculations may only be verified against an empirical source as true or false, composition is offered as an alternative. By focusing on composition, politics is transformed from a science that is conducted with self-evident material to one that allows a more nuanced dialog of matters-of-concern. Since the "we" of "we the people" is always in flux, these concerns are always shifting as well. Latour's model thus attempts to have it both ways: to make calculations (as a technology of observation) more linked with the physical world but, instead of ending politics with observation, to also make the evaluation of those facts a decisive, deliberative, and ultimately constructive act of composition.
No small feat.